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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Computerworld Malaysia - Social media revenues to reach U$17 billion by yearend – Gartner

Veronica C. Silva | July 30, 2012

There's money in social media after all. 

According to Gartner's forecast, those social networking and microblogging that take up people's time have a dollar value attached to them. How much? Almost US$17 billion by the end of the year. That is a 43.1 percent increase from 2011 revenues of U$11.8 billion, mainly due to ads, Gartner added.

Ads are expected to bring in U$8.8 billion this year, while social gaming will bring in U$6.2 billion, more than double the revenues raised between 2010 and 2011. Revenues from subscription are expected to total U$278 million this year.

The popularity of social media is increasing in recent years, noted Gartner, but it is still a challenge to translate this popularity to dollar terms.

"Usage of online social media has matured, and more than one billion people worldwide will use social networks this year," said Neha Gupta, senior research analyst, Gartner. "Although the number of social media users is large, and in some cases increasingly mature in their usage patterns, the market is still in its early stages from a revenue perspective."

More users

Gartner is expecting the number of social media users to increase moderately. Already, social media companies have been devising ways to keep users glued and to attract new users. New forms of media have recently been developed as a result of tough competition among social media players, while incorporating entertainment on the social sites is another way to retain and attract users.

Even marketers are optimistic of the potential of social media by allocating a large percentage of their advertising budget to social media. Because social media sites have a pool of engaged users, marketers are encouraged that this would increase the potential "click-through rates" (CTRs). Through the networks of contacts of these users, marketers can produce targeted ads.

"Social media sites are becoming more innovative in their ad products to attract marketers," Gupta said. "Social networking sites should deploy data analytic technologies that interrogate social networks to give marketers a more accurate picture of trends in accordance with consumers' needs and preferences."

Despite the pull of ads in bringing in revenues, social media sites are coming up with more creative ways to generate revenues from the traffic. Some strategies developed include new forms of media and entertainment.

Revenue models

More users are expected to pay to be able to join social networks, or the subscription model, but the cost of the subscription itself is expected to be lower because of the preference for ad-based revenue models, said Gartner. The market analyst firm does not expect the premium subscription model -- with LinkedIn and Xing as examples -- to succeed. Gartner has noted a decline in the ratio of subscription revenues from these two professional networking sites.

A promising prospect is in the sale of virtual goods in social gaming. Examples would be to pay for digital content or applications, such as FarmVille, or to make person-to-person (P2P) payment to another user in the network site.  New revenue opportunities for social media will also arise as both mobile and TV platforms integrate with social networking as a core service, Gartner added.

"New revenue opportunities will exist in social media, but no new services will be able to bring significant fresh revenue to social media by 2016," said Gupta. "The biggest impact of growth in social media is on the advertisers. In the short and medium terms, social media sites should deploy data analytic techniques that interrogate social networks to give marketers a more accurate picture of trends about consumers' needs and preferences on a customised basis. In the meantime, however, they should also continue to exploit other channels of revenue like mobile advertising and social commerce."

Servant Leadership: Helping People Come Alive

In an ancient parable, three masons are sitting in a row, all chipping away at large blocks of stone. A woman observing them is curious about what they're up to. She asks the first man what he's doing, to which he responds, "I'm chipping away at this block of stone." Indeed, she thinks. She questions the second man similarly, who says, "I'm working to feed my family." Also true, reflects the woman. Finally, she questions the third mason, who responds, "I'm helping to build a beautiful cathedral."

It's a powerful perspective -- holding within it a value for collaboration, agency, creativity, and meaning. What if we all could see our work in that way? What if our organizations supported us in holding that perspective, and to go one step further, how can we create institutions that release these core values? In his seminal 1970 essay "The Servant as Leader," Robert Greenleaf coined the term "servant leader" to describe someone who has that interest. For such a person, "It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead."

A servant leader -- one who wants to serve first and lead second -- strives to create a work environment in which people can truly express these deepest of inner drives. Servant leadership entails a deep belief that people are the greatest asset any organization has, and to nurture their individual growth becomes the basis for all organizational development. That growth goes far beyond the limited dimension of financial benefit -- it dives into our core motivations as people.

In his book Drive, best-selling author Dan Pink talks about the evolution in our understanding of what really motivates people, especially in our professional lives. According to Pink, the latest behavioral science research points to three key drivers: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Another way to frame this is empowerment, perfectibility, and purpose, and servant leaders endeavor to create a culture that fosters each of these three intrinsic motivations:


People want to be engaged and also have some level of control over their environment. A servant leader recognizes that the people doing the work generally have the best ideas about how to improve the processes they participate in. Through tools like rapid improvement events and PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) suggestion systems, servant leaders practice participatory decision-making, empowering employees to be innovators and co-creators in positive change. Such leaders are also enablers; they spend a significant amount of time at the workplace, making direct observations, and then striving to create systemic improvements that add value to the work of their employees.

For a concrete example of this kind of engagement, in "Improving Healthcare Using Toyota Lean Production Methods," Robert Chalice reports that Toyota Corporation employees globally generate 2 million ideas a year. And they come from all over -- more than 95% of the workforce contributes these suggestions, with each person submitting over 30 ideas each. Even more importantly, over 90% of these ideas are implemented. Leaders who understand how to unleash this kind of creativity build systems that support idea generation. But this kind of empowerment is also grounded. Servant leaders promote learning by doing and testing iteratively in a scientific way, and they demonstrate accountability. It's a great example of assuming value in all people, which soon translates into a scientific, transparent system for everyday improvement, which in turn fosters a culture of continuous perfection.


Perfect is a verb -- and every person can tap into an intrinsic drive toward perfection. A carpenter can strive to be a perfect craftsman, a nurse looks to provide perfect care at the bedside, and Michael Jordan was known to inexorably seek the perfect shot. The role of servant leadership is to create a culture and context in which that inherent drive toward improvement is channeled in a way that benefits the whole. If people are engaged in perfection as a journey and not a destination, then they are constantly looking for ways to innovate.

This brand of innovation follows a very conscious design philosophy -- one that is inherently collaborative. All of us are smarter than any of us, as the adage goes. Far from being a cold, individual, strictly rational process, servant leaders design highly collaborative systems that balance the scientific method with in-depth engagement of people from all levels. They also actively break down silos and promote a shared view across functions and departments: in healthcare (where I currently work), that view is: "how can we maximize the real value to the patient, and as they move along the care delivery stream, what improves their well-being?" In that sense, servant leaders have a worldview of interdependence, and recognize that they have to own the entire value stream (including suppliers and partners), on behalf of the patient.


In the words of Picasso, "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." In healthcare -- and especially in serving the underserved population -- it becomes all the more important (and necessary) to create structures that enable us to give in concert. Atul Gawande, the famed surgeon-author, uses a sports analogy to urge modern healthcare (though it's easily generalizable) to evolve from "cowboy medicine" to "pitcrew medicine," referring to the unbelievable preparation, synchronization, and seamless way in which a pit-crew services a race-car in the thick of intense competition. If a pit-crew can deliver flawless results in less than 12 seconds, imagine what a team of people can do longterm in the service of better care for all.

At the root of such collaboration is still each person's own connection to greater purpose. Civil Rights leader Howard Thurman said, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Perhaps that is the essence of servant leadership: to facilitate people in coming alive. Interestingly enough, when we support people in tapping into that part of themselves that is most alive, then their most selfless motivations surface. So people who've come alive are naturally amenable to working in a collective.

In this way, by supporting people in finding purpose, servant leaders inspire true, collective service. And it's all done invisibly, such that people can truly feel that they are each "helping to build a beautiful cathedral." In the ancient words of Lao Tzu, "The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, All the people say, 'We ourselves have achieved it!'"

TECHNOLOGY: Social Media Are Giving a Voice to Taste Buds

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
Ravi Raj, standing, of @WalmartLabs with Pankaj Risbood and Ken Turner examining social media data.

Published: July 31, 2012

Frito-Lay is developing a new potato chip flavor, which, in the old days, would have involved a series of focus groups, research and trend analysis.
Now, it uses Facebook.

Visitors to the new Lay's Facebook app are asked to suggest new flavors and click an "I'd Eat That" button to register their preferences. So far, the results show that a beer-battered onion-ring flavor is popular in California and Ohio, while a churros flavor is a hit in New York.

"It's a new way of getting consumer research," said Ann Mukherjee, chief marketing officer of Frito-Lay North America. "We're going to get a ton of new ideas."

While consumers may think of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare as places to post musings and interact with friends, companies like Wal-Mart and Samuel Adams are turning them into extensions of market research departments. And companies are just beginning to figure out how to use the enormous amount of information available.

When Wal-Mart wanted to know whether to stock lollipop-shaped cake makers in its stores, it studied Twitter chatter. Estée Lauder's MAC Cosmetics brand asked social media users to vote on which discontinued shades to bring back. The stuffed-animal brand Squishable solicited Facebook feedback before settling on the final version of a new toy. And Samuel Adams asked users to vote on yeast, hops, color and other qualities to create a crowdsourced beer, an American red ale called B'Austin Ale that got rave reviews.

"It tells us exactly what customers are interested in," said Elizabeth Francis, chief marketing officer of the Gilt Groupe. Gilt asks customers to vote on which products to include in a sale, and sets up Facebook chats between engineers and customers to help refine products. "It's amazing that we can get that kind of real feedback, as opposed to speculating," Ms. Francis said.

Wal-Mart acquired the social media company Kosmix last year for an estimated $300 million, chiefly because of Kosmix's ability to extract trends from social media conversations.

The unit, now called @WalmartLabs, looks at Twitter posts, public Facebook posts and search terms on, among other cues, to help Wal-Mart refine what it sells. Its technology can identify the context of words, distinguishing "Salt," the Angelina Jolie movie, from salt, the seasoning, for example. It sets baselines for what a normal level of buzz around, say, electronics or toys is, so it can measure when interest is getting high. It also analyzes sentiment, because if people overwhelmingly dislike a new video game, ordering pallets of the game is not a great bet.

"There's mountains and mountains of data being created in social media," said Ravi Raj, vice president for products for @WalmartLabs, adding that the company used the data to decide what merchandise to carry where.

In one of its first analyses, performed last summer, @WalmartLabs found that cake pops - small bites of cake on lollipop sticks - were becoming popular. "Starbucks had just started getting them in their cafes, and people were talking a lot about it," Mr. Raj said.

His team alerted merchants at Wal-Mart headquarters. The merchants had also heard about the product, and decided to carry cake-pop makers in Walmart stores. They were popular enough that the company plans to bring them back this holiday season.

More recently, @WalmartLabs found that enthusiasm for "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises" was surging before the movies were released, and suggested that stores increase their orders of related merchandise. And after Walmart started carrying a spicy chip called Takis, @WalmartLabs found that most of the positive chatter about it was coming from California and the Southwest.

The merchants, judging that they could sell additional products in those states, commissioned a similar spicy chip from Walmart's private-label brand and hurried to introduce another, called Dinamita, from Doritos. Walmart began selling both lines in California and the Southwest earlier this year, and is now adding them to other stores.

For Frito-Lay, seeking product ideas on Facebook, via the Lay's Do Us a Flavor app, has a few advantages.
Once the company sees what is popular and where, it can tailor its products to specific areas of the country. While Frito-Lay will produce three of the flavors from its contest and give a $1 million prize to the creator of one of those flavors, Ms. Mukherjee said the company would also study other suggestions. "This is a real competitive edge for us," she said.

Frito-Lay has already run the contest overseas, resulting in chip flavors like hot and spicy crab in Thailand and pickled cucumber in Serbia.
The social media approach also attracts younger customers. People who sign up for focus groups or consumer panels are generally not young fad followers, but Facebook users often are, so adding social media to the mix lets Frito-Lay get a wide range of consumer feedback.
Kohl's, which started asking its Facebook fans in July to pick products for inclusion in sales, said those fans were more heavily represented than its overall customer base in the 18-to-24 demographic.

Marketers are trying to find a balance between privacy concerns and the rich data available online. Mr. Raj said Wal-Mart analyzed only Facebook posts that users made public. On the other hand, apps like Frito-Lay's require access to a user's location, gender, birthday, photos, list of friends and status updates; the products for which he or she has clicked "like"; and more.

For the most part, when someone uses a brand's Facebook app, the brand can obtain a range of personal information, said Mark LaRow, senior vice president for products at the software company MicroStrategy. MicroStrategy has built its own app, Wisdom Network, that can gain access to about 13 million private Facebook profiles once a user gives it permission.

The app gathers information about users and their friends. Marketers might use the data to see what current or potential customers do and like, or what rich customers prefer versus poorer ones. (MicroStrategy cross-references app users' job titles and locations, part of the standard information Facebook asks for, to estimate their likely salaries.)

For instance, Mr. LaRow said that if the soccer team FC Barcelona, a MicroStrategy client, saw that a large number of its fans liked the actor Vin Diesel, it might pursue new partnerships.

Not everyone is a believer in data alone. "Data can't tell you where the world is headed," said Lara Lee, chief innovation and operating officer at the design consultancy Continuum, which helped design the Swiffer and the One Laptop per Child project.
But companies using data from social media said the ability to see what consumers do, want and are talking about on such a big scale, without consumers necessarily knowing the companies are listening in, was unprecedented. "This is like the biggest focus group someone could ever imagine," Mr. LaRow said.

Mobile telepresence trims costs for major Malaysian retailer

PHOTO - Malik Murad Ali IT director, Mydin Mohamed Holdings

Mobile telepresence trims costs for major Malaysian retailer
AvantiKumar | July 31, 2012

The urgent need to be able to make faster informed decisions led Malaysian retail organisation Mydin Mohamed Holdings (Mydin) to choose a real-time telepresence solution from US-based conferencing solutions provider Vidyo, said Malik Murad Ali, Mydin's IT director.

"In a highly-competitive, low-margin retail environment, quick action often spells the difference between success and failure," said Malik. "For an enterprise like us with stores dispersed across multiple locations, there was an even greater need for a collaborative tool that improves internal communications and enables timely, effective communication to facilitate decision-making. Furthermore, we had to foster better internal communications, due to exponential growth in Malaysia."

This steep growth was driven by two factors, he said. "First, rising inflation and food prices pushed more Malaysians toward the company's generically branded, cost-conscious lines of food, household items, soft goods and hard goods. Second, Mydin was selected by the Malaysian government to manage the stores of its new Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia initiative, a programme championed by Malaysia's prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, as a way to provide basic necessities at low prices. 1Malaysia allows low-income citizens to afford items such as rice, cooking oil, milk powder and diapers.

"We have grown from 4,000 employees in 2007 to 10,000 employees in 2012 and needed a telepresence solution that could work reliably and seamlessly across a range of devices," said Malik. "This would in turn, enabled us to get more personal with each other and collaborate at a faster pace."

Such collaboration would help make better and faster decisions, he said. "We started looking for a telepresence solution, three years ago, in 2009. Vidyo's solution was a natural fit for Mydin with its multi-platform functionality that delivers high-quality telepresence while integrating with existing devices. In essence, it could integrate into existing infrastructure, without expensive additions that were required by other telepresence systems."

Incorporated in 1991, retail organisation Mydin Mohamed Holdings has 100 outlets nationwide, which includes 10 hypermarkets, 18 emporiums, three bazaars, 54 mini markets (MyMydin), nine convenient stores (MyMart) and six franchise outlets (Mydin Mart).

 Mobile, cost effective

Given the nature of the business, cost was a great determinant in the deployment of the telepresence solution, Malik said. "Other telepresence solutions required an initial investment of at least one million Ringgit [US$315,060] per telepresence room and would be only confined to one telepresence room per branch.  We have 100 stores across Malaysia! Vidyo only required us to invest RM 200,000 [US$63,044] as a startup to collaborate with 100 stores across Malaysia and we could instantly use it on our personal devices such as the mobile phone and laptop, rather than be confined to one room."

"When Mydin determined that slow internal communications - as a result of a growing workforce geographically dispersed - could be improved, we immediately recognised how our solutions could resolve their communications issues," said Vidyo senior vice president, market development, Marty Hollander. "Our current telepresence solutions enable Mydin to speed up its communications and decision-making processes by providing real-time visual feedback beyond calls, e-mails and messaging." 

"Vidyo's Adaptive Vidyo Layering (AVL) architecture enables telepresence-quality multipoint video conference that runs on off-the-shelf hardware, such as tablets, smartphones and desktops, over everyday networks, including the Internet, LTE [long term evolution], 3G and 4G," said Hollander. "We make this available at a fraction of the cost of conventional telepresence systems." 

"Immediate benefits included enhanced real-time collaboration between staff, which has raised our quality standards with the accelerated decision-making during the course of the day's business," said Mydin's Malik. "VidyoMobile, for instance, allows operations managers to share visual information that enhances quality control across all of Mydin's stores, while our procurers travelling abroad use VidyoMobile to show managers back home what potential new products look like and their unique selling points, leading to wiser, faster purchasing decisions."

"Vidyo has essentially provided our managers and executives virtual, real-time access to any corner of the company's operations, while on-the-go," said Malik. "It has also expanded the bandwidth of our employees to successfully manage a larger number of geographically distributed stores, driving growth and sales. We previously launched one store opening per month; now, by collaborating faster internally with Vidyo's solutions to take on the strong consumer demand, we are able to launch up to 14 store openings per month."

Another welcome benefit is the saving of business costs and time, he added. Business costs have been trimmed tremendously since the implementation of Vidyo's solutions.  With the option of our employees joining meetings on VidyoConferencing room systems, desktops, laptops or tablets from wherever they happen to be, travel costs and associated downtime have been greatly reduced."

"In one critical meeting with important partners in Hyderabad, where required Mydin executives were unable to attend in person, half-day meetings over a course of three days were conducted, using the HD100 VidyoRoom system in Kuala Lumpur and a regular laptop running VidyoDesktop in Hyderabad," said Malik. "The meetings were successful and the communication was excellent, resulting in a 100 percent return on our investment in Vidyo solutions from that very first meeting alone."

Before and after

Malik said that though company started looking for the right telepresence solution in July 2009, the suggestion to check out Vidyo came from one his close friends. "Within the first trial of the VidyoMobile product on my mobile device, I was keen to deploy the solution company wide.  It was not difficult to train the users on how to use VidyoMobile as it was as simple as using any app on a mobile device. The effort was more to train them on the protocols of video conferencing such as location, usage of headphones and when to mute the microphone."

"Beyond increasing the bandwidth to match the requirements of telepresence conferencing capabilities, there were nothing else we had to change or localise, from a technology standpoint," he added.

"By using AVL technology, it can eliminate costly Multipoint Control Units (MCUs) for multi-point connections," added Vidyo's Hollander. "Vidyo's low-latency and error resilient telepresence technology further ensures reliability of service and high-quality natural telepresence anytime and anywhere, as required by the client. This bridges geographical distances by facilitating employee interaction regardless of location, significantly improving the speed of communication and decision-making in Mydin."

"Before personal telepresence solutions like Vidyo, we connected through phone and SMSes, which were ok at best; but given our rapid growth, we needed to speed things up when collaborating on matters that were more complex, like human resources and pricing of our goods," said Mydin's Malik. "With Vidyo, we are able to connect visually, enabling us to connect faster, understand each other better and be more productive across the organisation. We are able to read each other better - as a lot of communication is non-verbal - and reach mutually-beneficial conclusions easily." 

However, as this was a new technology to the company, it did cause changes in behaviour. "It does take time to get used to the process and protocols, and some departments do use it more than other departments. The departments that do persevere often derive the maximum benefits but the others are slowly catching up."

"All the stakeholders in our ecosystem have responded very well to this system," he added. "As Vidyo's technologies integrate easily into currently-used devices; our staff find it eases the learning and use of Vidyo's telepresence capabilities."

Consider the cost as well as BYOD

"The top three things companies need to take into account are the setup costs; that the solution must be available at anytime and anywhere, and easy integration into current infrastructure is also an important consideration," said Malik.

"Vidyo proved to be technologies are excellent at integration with current organisational and consumer devices, where the technology leverages the latest developments in these devices to bring telepresence to the mobile phone and make it personal."

"In fact, the rise of the Bring Your Own Device [BYOD] phenomenon is underscoring how important it is, to be able to integrate into current technologies and infrastructures," he said.

"As Mydin grows, Vidyo's scalability ensures that its solutions can continue to be seamlessly scaled up to shoulder the load of Mydin's business communication needs," said Vidyo's Hollander. "Our ability to quickly leverage the latest hardware innovations and new consumer devices will enable Mydin to stay ahead of its competitors by embracing new technologies without having to compromise on communication capabilities; all of this, while staying cost-effective."

He said that in April this year, Vidyo reported an 82 percent increase in revenue for the fiscal year of 2011, with a revenue boost of 115 percent in Asia-Pacific markets. "We also added 1,000 new customers globally within the past year (from April 2012), bringing the total to 1,850.We expect to see the Vidyo platform redefine the marketplace in Asia Pacific by setting new quality thresholds and total cost of ownership savings that far surpass traditional MCU-based technologies. In anticipation of rapid growth and rising demand, we have doubled our staff strength across the region and plan to set up more offices across the region this year."

"As we look to continue expanding rapidly in the next three-five years, adopting the Vidyo solution has provided the collaborative framework for our employees to support the company's growth strategy for the near future," said Mydin's Malik. "Personal telepresence will not only extend the current capabilities of the management to oversee a wider network of stores; real-time high-quality exchange of visual information will enhance productivity and efficiency, keeping the business nimble and moving faster than the competition. These capabilities will continue to propel our growth and success. I do foresee that video conferencing will be the second most important way and conducting meetings besides the traditional face to face."

The Great Firewall Of China

May 2008
China has the most sophisticated censorship and internet surveillance in the world. But despite this autocratic control some guerrilla bloggers are still managing to get their message through.
"The Government always wants to try to act as the cat to control people's access to information but I think the mouse is running faster." This is the voice of Isaac Mao, he was one of China's earliest bloggers, and has learnt how to work the system. "The Chinese government's goal is not to control one hundred percent of what people are doing one hundred percent of the time," if they are too authoritarian, they will be faced with civil unrest. As CNN correspondent Rebecca MacKinnon points out, "to remain in power they want to prevent certain uses of the internet that might lead to overthrow." Journalists like Zhang Shihe work the gaps in the censorship to broadcast their message, " I rely on my instinct. Am I telling the truth or lies? Am I trying to help improve the situation? I know if I can control this, I'll be fine." He regularly films and comments on rural working conditions, and has as yet avoided jail. But his story is not typical. With about 30 known journalists and 50 internet users known to be behind bars, the Committee to Protect Journalists has branded China "the world's leading jailer of journalists."

Michael Anti (aka Jing Zhao): Behind the Great Firewall of China

Michael Anti (aka Jing Zhao) has been blogging from China for 12 years. Despite the control the central government has over the Internet -- "All the servers are in Beijing" -- he says that hundreds of millions of microbloggers are in fact creating the first national public sphere in the country's history, and shifting the balance of power in unexpected ways.

Michael Anti (Zhao Jing), a key figure in China's new journalism, explores the growing power of the Chinese internet. Full bio »

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How To Create Augmented Reality Apps

This video covers the very basics of creating an Augmented Reality (AR) application using FLARToolkit and Adobe Flex. Please visit the URL below for a sample and for all the resources used in this video:

Augmented Reality without programming in 5 minutes

Example, how to create an AR application without programming at all.

You need next stuff:
1. An mac,
2. The Quartz Composer,
3. Some additional patches from here:

Augmented Reality Business Card

Genuine Interactive Augmented Reality Business Card
Try it yourself at

Winscape Kinect Demo - Augmented Reality

Demonstration of the new KinectTM tracking capabilities of Winscape. The Kinect can track a person more accurately and more easily than the old IR-necklace-based approach.

See for more details.

Music is "Still Night" by Pretty Lights.

Kinect is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.
Hyatt is a registered trademark of Hyatt Corporation.
This video is in no way officially associated with Hyatt or their products.
Hyatt is used solely as an example in this demonstration.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cardless mobile loyalty system for Malaysian retailers

PHOTO -  (From left) Lim Sin Khim, CEO of Wings Musicafe; Ho Heng Yew, marketing director Of Werebits; Teon Ooi, co-founder of ChopInk; Aida Noryati Abdul Muti, marketing manager of Gloria Jean's Coffees with Tan Hai Hsin, managing director of Retail Group Malaysia.

Computerworld Malaysia - Cardless mobile loyalty system for Malaysian retailers
AvantiKumar | July 27, 2012

Malaysian mobile solutions firm Werebits has launched a cardless loyalty system for retailers, called ChopInk, which could replace paper-based loyalty stamp cards.

"Paper-based loyalty stamp cards are one of favourite loyalty marketing tools used by small and medium retailers but these produce very mixed results due to the analog nature of such cards," said Werebits marketing director, Ho Heng Yew. "Our goal is to give retailers a simple yet innovative solution to transform their occasional customers into super fans and frequent buyers while giving them the insights of who their regular and inactive customers are."

Ho said that bringing the loyalty cards online through a mobile application would revolutionise the loyalty programme experience for both retailers and consumers. "With ChopInk, retailers are able to know who their regular customers are and maintain a repository of their contact information for use in future marketing campaigns and reward programmes. They can decide what and how much they want to give away for their reward programme and how many loyalty stamps it would require for customers to receive rewards."

"Consumers can download the free ChopInk app on their iOS or Android smart devices and then ask for the QR code from the merchant when they want to pay, scan the QR code with the ChopInk app on their smartphone and they will receive their loyalty stamp," he said.

"What retailers need is a capable platform to manage their loyalty programmes, the analytics to help them measure success and low-cost technology to make it happen," said Ho. "Since mobile technology is becoming ubiquitous among consumers, it was the obvious choice for us to deliver the ChopInk service with smartphone apps. We believe ChopInk will see a strong take up with the retailers."

"With the highly competitive nature of the retail and particularly food and beverage (F&B) businesses here in Malaysia, it is vital that retailers know how to engage customers effectively on an on-going basis," said Retail Group Malaysia managing director, Tan Hai Hsin. "It is also important that they are able to go beyond capturing market share to retaining it."

"A number of retailers in Penang and Klang Valley have already signed up," said Werebits' Ho. "In conjunction with the launch, we are also announcing a joint promotional campaign with Gloria Jean's Coffees and Wings Musicafe. The first 500 Gloria Jean's Coffees guests who download the ChopInk app and use it at specified outlets will get a free cup of regular size Gloria Jean's Coffees beverages in the month of July. Likewise, the first 700 Wings Musicafe customers who use the ChopInk app will get a free cup of milk tea."

Five Guys found simple recipe for success: Do it right –

Five Guys CEO Jerry Murrell says, "I think people will pay a little extra for food if it's worth it."

Five Guys found simple recipe for success: Do it right

Maxine Park, USA TODAY

When his two oldest sons told him they didn't want to go to college, Five Guys CEO Jerry Murrell suggested they open a hamburger business.

"My mom always said if you can give a good haircut, make a good drink and make a good hamburger, you'll be all right in life," says Murrell, 68. "I just thought that was a good idea. I didn't think we could make a good hamburger, but I thought, well, a lot of people do it, so maybe we could figure it out."

Then, about a year before opening Five Guys, Murrell was in a Pittsburgh hotel when he came across a book by J. Willard Marriott Sr., who got his start in the hospitality business with an A&W franchise. He had an epiphany.

"He said anybody can be successful in the restaurant business if you serve a good product, (have a) friendly and clean atmosphere and reasonable price," recalls Murrell. "I said, 'Heck, if that's all there is to it, let's do it.' "

So the Murrell family — Murrell, his wife and five sons — set out to open a burger business. The banks refused to give them funding for their burger venture, so they scraped together enough money to build their own equipment and get a small place nobody else wanted to rent. They sought out the best ingredients — paying top price for meat, getting a renowned local bakery to bake their rolls, buying the most expensive bacon — and decided they would cook only in peanut oil, which cost five times as much as the oil other burger restaurants were using.

"We did everything we weren't supposed to do," Murrell says.

Fine ingredients cost more

In 1986, Five Guys opened as a small carry-out in Arlington, Va., serving only burgers and fries. The place was hard to get to, and there was no parking.

Customers initially gawked at the $2.19 price ($4.59 today, adjusted for inflation), but once they tasted the burgers they eventually came around.

"Some people said, 'I'm not paying that much for a hamburger.' And then we'll say, 'OK, don't pay for it, just take it then.' And you know, in the 25 years we've done that, every single customer's come back and paid it plus a big tip. And they became customers of ours," Murrell says. "I think people will pay a little extra for food if it's worth it."

The public thought Five Guys was worth it, and the company broke even its first day in business. And within a year the press was writing about "the place to get a fresh juicy burger." A couple of years later, they opened a store with seating. It was a hit, and now all the stores have seating.

Today Five Guys has more than 1,000 stores nationwide. The Murrells run about 200 of them, and the rest are franchises. All of the territory in the U.S. and Canada has been sold, and the company is getting ready to open a store in Great Britain next year. Systemwide revenue in 2011 was $976 million, up from $720 million in 2010.

Mueller was right to listen to his mother. Five Guys is right in line with industry growth trends. In 2012, sales for the restaurant industry will reach a record high of $632 billion, 3.5% over 2011, says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. The quick service segment or fast-casual operators like Five Guys is expected to post sales growth above the traditional sit-down restaurant category.

"The fast-casual segment is definitely one of the areas in the restaurant industry which is experiencing an above-average growth rate," says Riehle. "It definitely has a bright future."

One of the hallmarks of some fast-casual operators is the ability to offer a freshly prepared product in an environment with somewhat upscale décor and slightly elevated price points, says Riehle. But as the industry has expanded, certain operators have set themselves apart from the competition by focusing on a specific menu item and executing it exceptionally well, he says.

Doing one thing, getting it right

That's certainly the case with Five Guys. Jeff Haden, a columnist for, says Five Guys is so successful because though it only sells burgers, it does that extremely well. "They don't try to be all things to all people," Haden says. "They sell to people who want a great burger. They've identified a market big enough that they can do that."

But even more important than what's offered is the patron's experience, Riehle says. It has to meet expectations in terms of the price paid for the value they received. "The research is quite clear that in terms of consumer expectations regarding a restaurant experience, food quality is No. 1," says Riehle. "So the ability to deliver a consistent taste and flavor sensation or very tailored taste and sensation is critical to the long-term success."

That's why Five Guys doesn't comparison shop, says Murrell, to ensure the quality of their products is top-notch. They have many of the same vendors they did in 1986. Their fresh, made-to-order burgers and fries have been the recipe to their success. They don't plan on changing a formula that's worked for more than two decades, even if they could find products cheaper. For example, the company seeks quality, albeit more expensive products — their bacon comes from Patrick Cudahy, a Wisconsin smokehouse that smokes with natural apple-wood chips.

Treating workers well

Murrell admits that they do things a little differently than most companies. For one, no advertising. They'd rather give workers bonuses. "All of our employees at our stores, we pay them good money. I think that's important," he says. "Hire well-paid people, and they'll stay with you."

Though the pay for Five Guys' employees varies by state and whether the the store is corporate or a franchise, almost all of the crew-level employees make above minimum wage, says spokeswoman Molly Catalano. Most franchisees and the corporate office offer health insurance, as well. In addition, all employees have access to the company's Secret Shopper Bonus program, in addition to any store-level bonuses, Catalano says. Five Guys uses a company to send secret shoppers to its stores to make sure they are up to the Five Guys' standard of service. There are weekly, monthly and quarterly programs that award crew members based on the shoppers' reports.

And though technology has changed the way the company does business — they can see what their stores are doing at any time of the day — it hasn't changed the product.

Murrell says that it was his wife, Janie, 62, president of Five Guys, and their five sons who actually built the company. The five guys all found a way to work within their passions. For example, Jim, 45, the oldest son, came up with the idea to franchise the privately owned company. Matt, 43, is over marketing and operations. Chad, 40, leads training and Ben, 29, heads the company's IT department. The youngest son, Tyler, 25, loves to cook and oversees the company's bakeries. And now, three grandchildren have joined the family business.

Murrell says his innovative approach is simple: Treat your employees and customers right. "Find something you love to do and just do it. Make sure your heart's in it," he says. "You can't be everything to everybody. You got to be what you are. That's all you can do."

Augmented Reality: The Business Case

Augmented Reality: The Business Case
Augmented Reality has long been the realm of futurism and science fiction. The arrival of fast mobile internet and powerful internet connected devices has made way for Augmented Reality applications with practical value.

A Short Introduction To Augmented Reality In Business
Augmented Reality has long been the realm of futurism and science fiction. The arrival of fast mobile internet and powerful internet connected devices has made way for Augmented Reality applications with practical value.

What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) refers to using a computer to modify or mediate a person's perception of the real, physical world with useful information.  For example, the announcers and scoreboard displayed during live sports games is a basic AR technology.  The live feed is being augmented to provide useful information.  The most common augmentation is achieved visually (through a screen or monitor), aurally (through headphones), or haptically (through vibration). A key feature of AR is that is done in real-time. This means that applications like Google Maps Street View, which overlay street information on real photography, are not AR.  If Google Maps Street View overlaid street information directly onto incoming live video from a cellphone, that would be AR.
The reality mediation of AR exists on a spectrum from purely passive to interactive. A purely passive AR application might only provide current statistics (Ex: fighter plane's Heads Up Display). An interactive application might allow you to interact with virtual objects as if they existed in the real world (Ex: a virtual pet you can only see through your webcam). You might even be able to interact with real-world objects through an AR interface.

What can we do with it?
The applications of AR are varied and exciting. Here are a few specific examples of applications that are possible today:
  • Assisted driving - A car that provides an audible alert and turns the windshield red at the edges when you are approaching another motorist too quickly.
  • Enhanced advertising – Upon seeing a house for sale, pointing your cellphone camera at the ad shows you a 3D model of the home or a zoomable floor-plan
  • Design services – By placing paper symbols on the floor and panning your cellphone camera around the room you can see 3D models of furniture where the markers are placed, allowing you to easily experiment with furniture or design layout.
What does this mean for business?
On the web, a few key technologies like client-side scripting and database connectivity have driven the creation of an entire generation of web applications.  Just as AJAX enabled the Web 2.0 revolution, we are just now receiving the enabling technology which will power the explosion of ideas in the field of Augmented Reality.
With just cameras, processors, and the internet, creative minds will forge the next paradigm in interacting with the world around us. Businesses are now uniquely positioned to take advantage of the emerging tech. New business models based solely on AR technology will suddenly become feasible. Old business models will be revolutionized.
I highly recommend reading this article by Gary Hayes at Personalize Media. He has compiled a list of 16 business models based on AR technology. Reading the list will develop your understanding of what is possible even further.

Do view the link below:

Businesses quickly adopting augmented reality apps for consumers

Businesses quickly adopting augmented reality apps for consumers

AR technology enables camera-equipped smartphone and tablet computer users who have downloaded apps to point at an object and retrieve information. The apps overlay what can be seen in plain sight with digital photos, videos or text.

October 13, 2011|By Shan Li, Los Angeles Times

You point your smartphone at an Italian restaurant, and diner reviews of its lasagna pop up on-screen.
Or you aim your tablet computer's camera down a residential street, and over images of the houses you see which ones are for sale — along with the asking price, number of baths and square footage.

Haven't done this yet? You probably will soon.
The technology is called augmented reality, or AR, and businesses are racing to incorporate it in as many consumer applications as they can. It's essentially the same technology TV sportscasts use to digitally paint a first-down line on a football field, adapted and updated for camera-equipped smartphones and tablet computers.

"In the future, you'll be able to point your device at anything around you and, without prompting, that device will recognize what is there, incorporate your interests, and layer on information about what you're looking at," said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner Inc. "Point a phone at a building, you'll see the history, for example. Or at a flower, the kind of flower comes up."

AR has been around for years, but only recently gained traction for consumers with the widespread adoption of smartphones equipped with electronic compasses and GPS chips to determine where the devices are and what they're pointing at. The mingling of the real and virtual worlds works by overlaying what can be seen in plain sight with digital photos, videos or text. It's similar to the sophisticated bar codes known as QRs, but has a much wider range of applications. A QR requires a digitally created image, or code, printed on an advertisement or product.
With AR technology, a consumer simply points at an object to get information. Aim at a house, for example, and find out whether the resident is selling anything on eBay Classifieds. Or point to an apartment building, and find out whether there are vacancies and what the landlord wants for rent.

About 6 million AR apps were downloaded last year, according to ABI Research — still a small fraction of the overall app market. But the number is projected to increase to 19 million downloads this year and balloon to nearly a billion by 2016.
The firm forecasts the mobile AR industry will see $3 billion in global revenue by 2016, up from $87 million this year and $21 million in 2010.

One of the pioneers in mobile AR was Yelp, the popular site that features consumer reviews on restaurants and other businesses. Point a phone using the site's free app down a street, and text bubbles pop up on the screen to identify which establishments have been reviewed.
Click on a bubble, and the business' Yelp page appears.

In the last year, there's been a boom in companies tinkering with AR, said Windsor Holden, an analyst at Juniper Research. "A number of big brands, especially, have become interested."

Many of the apps benefit specific companies (or industries) and are free to download. Beer-maker Stella Artois has an AR app to help customers find bars serving its brews. Shoppers can try out furniture from Ikea and Pier 1 Imports, virtually, by pointing to a spot at home and adding pieces on the SnapShop Showroom app.

House hunters can download Emeryville-based ZipRealty's free app, go to a neighborhood they like and point their phone down the block. Text bubbles pop up on-screen, showing the addresses and distances of homes for sale nearby. Tapping on a bubble will bring up the list price, thumbnail photo, square footage and the number of days it's been on the market. The app has been downloaded about 350,000 times, ZipRealty said., a San Francisco real estate site, has listed all of its rental properties on a similar app.
"Someone can be walking along and hold their phone up to a particular building or down a city block to see if anything is available," said Rofo Chief Executive Alan Bernier. "Or you could be sitting in the office, point the phone outside the window and see the same results."

Others have found ways to charge. Conde Nast Digital Britain, for example, has AR-enhanced guidebook apps for New York, Rome, Paris and Barcelona, Spain. Priced at $5.99 each, the apps enable tourists to point their phones toward a section of the city and get a rundown of museums, shops, restaurants and other attractions in the vicinity.

The Word Lens app, at $9.99, enables users to point a smartphone at a Spanish-language street sign, menu or other text, and receive an instant English translation. Several transit apps for sale point to the nearest subway stop via arrows overlaid into the sky or sidewalk.
AR apps are also used by nonprofits for educational purposes.

One of the most innovative uses of mobile AR comes from the Museum of London, which rolled out its Streetmuseum app last year. In more than 200 London street locations, users can view historic photos and paintings.

Augmented reality: IKEA

IKEA augmented reality demo

Merlin Mobility Augmented Reality IKEA Instructions
Merlin Mobility IKEA App Movie

Augmented Reality based Interface Concept for IKEA

A New Kind of Catalog: The 2013 IKEA Catalog App Preview

SnapShop - Finding, Visualizing and Sharing Furniture from your iPhone

How to Use Augmented Reality in Advertising

Apr 26, 2011
How to Use Augmented Reality in Advertising
Combining the digital and physical worlds, augmented reality offers brands a unique new opportunity to interact with consumers. Here's why it's worth a shot.

The marketing folks associated with Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater created a campaign in which users can picture themselves in the many local attractions (from beaches to the brand new Dali museum and more), accessible on their computers and shareable on social networks.
Augmented reality, or AR, may finally be coming of age. Particularly for Millennials, defined as those born in the 1980s and whose lives revolve around being constantly connected to technology (Blackberries, iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, video games, and more), AR offers a serious opportunity for marketers to reach these important consumers. With augmented reality, marketers can take the physical world and combine it with the digital world, giving both users and brands the ability to connect even further with a product before, during and after making a purchase. 

"In its simplest form," says Vivian Rosenthal, founder of New York City-based AR start-up GoldRun, "Augmented Reality is a digital layer over the real world that you can't see with the naked eye but you can see with the camera on your smartphone or computer."

But why and how should your company use augmented reality? Aside from the simple benefit of reaching Millennials, we'll delve into a few well-done campaigns in this guide to explain further.

How to Use Augmented Reality in Advertising:  The Prevalence of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is nothing new. It's been around officially since 1990, when Boeing researcher Tom Caudell coined the term to describe a digital display used by aircraft electricians that blended virtual graphics onto a physical reality. In other words, augmented reality combines two very different dynamics: the perception of personal exclusivity and a multi-dimensional, sensory experience.

We're all familiar with AR, even if we don't realize it.  One of the most common AR uses is the yellow first down line we've all grown accustomed to on football broadcasts. Contrary to what some may think, those yellow lines are not actually painted on the field, but inserted in your television viewing experience.

In March, the German film The Witness let users become a part of the film for the first time via AR and determine the outcome of the movie based on their own actions on their smartphones. And it will only continue to grow in advertising. According to 2009 figures from ABI Research, the market for augmented reality (AR) in the US alone is expected to hit $350 million in 2014, up from about $6 million in 2008, or, around 50 times more from 2008 to 2014.

How to Use Augmented Reality in Advertising: Using AR for a Competitive Advantage

For the marketing folks associated with Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, they've been thinking innovatively in terms of technology all year. They're faced with an understandable problem: so many destinations in Florida can offer beaches and entertainment, but how do you appeal to that younger demographic in a creative manner?

The Florida-based organization targeted New York City residents in the doldrums of winter with quick response, or QR, codes in partnership with JetBlue Airways on city subways. In the campaign, users snapped photos of the QR code and entered a co-branded contest to win a trip to the beaches. In March, they launched the first true augmented reality campaign in their industry, allowing users to picture themselves in the many local attractions (from beaches to the brand new Dali museum and more), accessible on their computers and shareable on social networks.

"For whatever reason, the travel industry has been a bit slow to adapt to a lot of these technologies," says Nate Huff, the vice president of publishing at Miles Media, who worked on the VSPC campaign in conjunction with Digital Frontiers Media. "With travel-based marketing, it's so driven by ROI, particularly because many of those organizations are run by the government. But this was a risk-taking group, and they realized that implanting an AR campaign is really going to get far more buzz than it's probably going to get in terms of actual consumer usage, but it's something that sets the brand apart and shows innovative thinking."

But augmented reality doesn't exist just in the online and television/film world. As smartphones continue to proliferate our daily lives (passing PCs in overall sales in February), offering these experiences in a mobile setting becomes increasingly important. And in the future, it will likely be the main way to reach consumers via augmented reality.

Enter GoldRun. Founder Vivian Rosenthal received a master's from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture and her joint thesis, way back in 2001, dealt with the intersection of the digital and physical space, before she founded digital media studio Tronic. She saw the language of the future as very visual, and thus created an opportunity for brands to offer AR experiences on their mobile phone via the GoldRun application about 18 months ago. To this point, their best campaigns have been with Airwalk (see slideshow) and an Esquire Magazine cover with Brooklyn Decker that allowed users to take their virtual photo with the supermodel upon checking in to certain Barnes and Noble locations.

"When it comes to measuring the success," says Rosenthal, "it's often about visibility, where it was shown, who shared them, and more. For the Airwalk project, it was about generating revenue by selling product? And they sold out 600 pairs of limited edition shoes in a weekend and had the most traffic in terms of their e-commerce site in the history of the company."

But why use AR, and how can your brand pull it off?

How to Use Augmented Reality in Advertising: Why Use Augmented Reality?

It's important to think about augmented reality as an additional form of advertising (in other words, it shouldn't be your only strategy). But based on its newness, if you're able to pull it off correctly, your company is seen as innovative.

Beyond that, the expense of pulling off an AR campaign pales in comparison to traditional print or broadcast advertising and establishes a longer-lasting, deeper connection with your consumers via an emotional connection, which in the end turns to more repeat business and sales. Here are the real reasons to think hard about utilizing an AR campaign.

Innovation: It's always good to be first to market, particularly when it comes to technology. In social networking, is no longer around, but their work inspired sites like Facebook, Twitter and more and their employees have moved on to impressive roles elsewhere. "This (AR offering) isn't just a one-off ad campaign," notes Huff. "This is an innovative approach by a destination marketing group (VSPC), the first of its kind, to use augmented reality to change their perception. Whenever the (travel) industry catches on, nobody else will have been first, and VSPC will be looked at as innovators."

What added value does AR offer for businesses? "It's really quite simple," says Rosenthal. "You are connecting further with customers and you're seeing your content as a brand in the real world with unbelievable visibility and scale."

Inexpensive: Print advertising in magazines tends to be significantly more expensive than online or digital ads. Many large monthly magazines charge upwards of $100,000 for a four-color, full-page print ad (one time), a cost determined by CPM (or cost per thousand readers). For example, Sports Illustrated's 2011 Swimsuit Issue (albeit a once-a-year publication) charged a base rate of $405,300 for a one-page, four-color full-page ad.

When creating an AR campaign, you often have more brand interactivity than the one-page ad at a significantly lower cost. "It honestly depends on the scope of the project, but AR campaigns can be as inexpensive as $5,000 and ax high as $100,000," according to Rosenthal. "That's nothing compared to print, and in many ways it's worth the risk in my eyes."

Emotional Connection: AR takes marketing strategies to a more immediate and sensory level with customers, allowing greater interactivity in the selling and buying process.  AR can create an emotional connection between what the buyer is searching for and what the product can offer. In short, it gives the product a personal feel when consumers can picture it in their own world.

"It's not just a matter of taking photos and sharing, which is what we're building," says Rosenthal. "But what really matters to us is the ability to take photos with virtual characters, products and environments, which is where it will resonate most and develop that deep brand connection."

Repeat Engagement: For most brands, engaging customers must come before, during and after you've created a dialogue with them, and with AR, brands engage with consumers, both cognitively and through their senses. For Millennials, it is rather simple: if the messaging and the experience are not engaging, and do not create brand desire, then customers may just move on to a competitor. Companies simply cannot afford that when you consider the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) of Millennials, who have upwards of 60 years in their buying future.

"From a very simple perspective," says Huff, "and this is a buzz word, but it's all about engagement and allowing companies to think up new ways to connect people with products. When they have a good experience, they're more likely to come back."

Geo-Targeting: With AR, not only can you determine what people's buying patterns are like via pre-existing data, but you can utilize GPS data (from smartphones, namely) to immerse users in a brand experience no matter where they are in the world. For a brand like Stella Artois, their augmented reality iPhone app Le Bar instantly locks onto your location and lets you find a local bar serving the popular Belgian beer by populating your smartphone with directional arrows pointing you to the nearest Stella taps.

Hyper-local advertising will continue to be an important strategy for marketers, as spending money to reach the right customers (or what your brand perceives as the right customer) is debatably worth more than overspending on a large-scale, national campaign that may or may not hit your intended demographic.

Mobile: With applications like GoldRun, advertising via augmented reality on mobile could very well be the future. Even Huff admits that the VSPC campaign, while innovative for the travel/destination-marketing sector, is only a step in the right direction toward mobile adoption, where he also sees the future of AR campaigns.

"If I'm a brand or ad agency, it behooves me to be marketing to the consumer in the mobile space," says Rosenthal. "Otherwise, I've lost an opportunity to connect from a brand perspective and sell a product or service. What we're noticing is that companies are literally lining up to work with us and use the technology because from a business perspective, it's a really exciting, new and fun medium to play with, and mobile is how you reach customers today."

Driving Offline Sales: At the end of the day, it comes down to ROI on any campaign. The key to developing successful AR campaigns that provide customer engagement as well as translate to sales will be ensuring that they support the local communities they're used in while creating unforgettable experiences for the customers using them. In many ways, AR brings offline experiences to online sales by enhancing the experience and driving brand visibility.

"It's going to be exciting. I see AR as where we were 10 years ago or 15 years ago with the web," says Rosenthal. "Brands at first didn't understand that they needed a presence online and a website. That's now their e-commerce platform, which is as important as almost any brick and mortar. And that's where we're going with AR. It's becoming a virtual goods economy out there, and GoldRun is positioned well in that market."

Reality Check - Using Augmented Reality For Business

Reality Check - Using Augmented Reality For Business 
Friday, 20 May 2011 11:09 | Last Updated on Monday, 24 October 2011 07:18 | Written by Dr. V

 Augmented reality could be destined to be the next technological wave. According to Sheryl Cooley on, “Augmented reality (AR) is a technology whereby computer-generated data is laid over a “reality” (be it real life or virtual reality) in real time.” All you need is a computer with Webcam or Smartphone to read the fiduciary markers that project a virtual experience onto a physical real-world environment. Over the past 20 years, AR has gone from being a tool to help aircraft engineers assemble cables to a multi-functional device available on the average Web browser. By 2009, AR was a big hit with marketers. As a cost effective way of providing more content, visual codes were embedded in the cover text of Esquire magazine so that when it was held up to a computer’s camera, the user experience was enhanced by a video that provided visual detail that extended way beyond the text. Smartphones with built in compasses and GPS give users access to historical data about buildings and menu and pricing information at restaurants without even stepping inside. Sports drinks endorsed by athletes come alive and people can use virtual dressing rooms to try on clothes. Also, Amsterdam-based technology company, Layar, created specs that allow users to search for things on Google yet deliver results based on location as determined by the GPS.  Some believe AR is just a gimmick because unless there’s a sale, where’s the value? Also, technology does not yet support all the applications and processing large quantities of data can drain batteries and significantly slow down results. But there may be a future because the technology is cheap and markers can be placed almost anywhere. Chris Grayson, a digital creative consultant and the co-organizer of Augmented Reality New York said on, “By the end of this decade, AR will swallow mobile. Augmented Reality will become the standard interface for the semantic Web.” To use augmented reality for an advantage in your organization, consider the following. Get creative with augmented reality for business use. Try AR to improve process efficiency. AR could be useful for team communication. AR for advertising is a nearly mature application. Lastly, a word of caution. AR done badly can lead to serious issues, so create your systems carefully.
Reinhold Behringer, Running Stream Professor of Creative Technology at Leeds Metropolitan University (, joins us to discuss Augmented Reality and how business applications could transform the way you work... Read the Transcript

Reinhold Behringer
Leeds Met Centre for Creative Technology
Reinhold Behringer studied physics in Germany (Uni Würzburg, 1984-1990), with emphasis on semiconductor physics. He spent one year in the US (SUNY Buffalo, 1987-88) as exchange student (MA 1988) and became interested in computer software and Artificial Intelligence. From 1990-1996 he worked on the development of a computer-vision based autonomous road vehicle (UniBwMünchen, Prof.E.D.Dickmanns), where he developed an approach for visual road recognition in conjunction with recursive state estimation (PhD / Dr.-Ing., 1996). From 1996-2005 he worked at Rockwell Scientific (former Rockwell Science Center, now Teledyne Scientific) in Thousand Oaks, CA, where he turned to Augmented Reality (AR) and developed a number of prototype applications for various application domains: industrial device training and maintenance,  information systems for defense control operations, situational awareness tools.

Augmented Reality: Business Uses

Augmented Reality by Hitlab

Augmented reality has been around for awhile, but it has only been recently that the technology has become available to the masses. Now businesses are looking to capitalize on it.

Caveat: In this post, I have given in to “what’s cool” vs. “what’s inexpensive.” I think that, unless you’re a Flash or Flex developer, you cannot use the software described below. You will have to hire someone – and I suspect you will have to throw more than a few bucks at it. However, in the world of augmented reality, this technology has suddenly become “cheap,” thanks to Flash. So consider this more a post that helps keep you up to date on what’s out there rather than one on how to save money.

Augmented Reality: What It Is

Augmented reality is a technology whereby computer-generated data is laid over a “reality” (be it real life or virtual reality) in real time. Common applications include the yellow “first down” lines shown during football games and head-up displays used in fighter jets. These days there are military helmets and motorcycle helmets and cars and games that use the same technology. iPhone users have access to augmented reality apps such as the popular app, “New York Nearest Subway,” which makes use of the iPhone’s built-in GPS and compass to give users information on things like the location of the nearest station entrance.

FLARToolkit and FLARManager

In late 2008, a group of Japanese coders introduced FLARToolkit, making augmented reality available to the web using ActionScript 3, the language of Adobe Flash. FLARManager followed, providing a framework for FLARToolkit; both are open source programs. At a recent meeting of OC Flash, held at roundpeg in Newport Beach, CA, Andrew Nguyen demonstrated FLARToolkit. Nguyen, Lead Front End Developer, Digital Post Interactive, Irvine, CA, demonstrated how a simple 2D photo (in this case, a fighter jet) could be used to create an interactive, augmented reality image using a laptop with a webcam, Adobe Flash CS5, Flash Player 10, FLARToolkit, and FLARManager.
After introducing his audience to fiduciary markers (which, in effect, are the alternate to the iPhone’s GPS and compass or similar technology), he walked through the relatively simple and lean code needed to make it appear that the image had been placed over the marker. What the audience saw in “real life” was Nguyen holding the marker in front of his webcam. What the webcam “saw” and displayed on the monitor was the fighter jet.  Better yet, as Nguyen moved the marker from side to side or towards or away from the webcam, rotated it, etc., the jet moved in sync.

Augmented Reality for Business

Markers can be placed anywhere – inside advertisements, on top of cereal boxes, on smartphones, or in comic books. Just as a movie that’s been put on a DVD often includes things like outtakes or back story footage, the markers can be used to provide additional information or incorporate something fun for the user to do. Nguyen noted that a recent edition of Esquire magazine had a marker on the cover. When the cover was held up to a webcam, it “came to life.”
Earlier he had noted that, “If you can master the user experience, you can capture the interest of your customer.” Customers, he said, don’t care about the technology or the specifications. “They want to know what it can do; is it fun?” Augmented reality offers businesses creative ways to engage their customers and educators new ways to engage their students. The possibilities are endless.
There are a number of YouTube videos that demonstrate augmented reality. The one I put in this post is 3 years old. However, I thought it did the best job of showing me not only the technology but the possibilities for mainstream use. To view more videos, go to YouTube and type “augmented reality” into the search box.